SPOKANE - Royce Bolinger hit a three-run home run to erase an early two-run deficit and a three-run fourth inning helped the Gonzaga University baseball team take down Santa Clara University 8-3 to clinch the three-game West Coast Conference series Saturday.
After having surgery to repair a torn meniscus on his right leg nearly three weeks ago, Marco Gonzales (5-0) was given the starting nod by head coach Mark Machtolf for the first time since March 25. The sophomore threw 82 pitches in five innings and although he struck out four batters, he allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks.
Machtolf was pleased with Gonzales performance.
"He didn't have the stuff he normally has, but he gave us five good innings and I'm happy about that," Machtolf said.
David Bigelow took over for Gonzales in the sixth inning and threw three shutout innings before handing the ball to Sean-Luke Brija, who got the save after the Broncos threatened to do serious damage with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
Along with his two-run shot, Bolinger added two base hits and a walk on the afternoon. Maxx Garrett also hit a home run and Eric Lane had two hits and a successful suicide squeeze play to drive in a run. Clayton Eslick, Alex Bonczyk and Brock Slavin stretched their only base hit in the game into a double.
Bronco starter Powell Fansler (5-3) suffered the loss after surrendering five runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks.
The Broncos (18-14, 1-7 WCC) got on board in the second inning when a throwing error by the third baseman Lane allowed the batter-runner to reach safely at second base and a two-out RBI base hit to right field gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
Santa Clara would take a 2-0 lead in the third inning using a leadoff bunt single, a sacrifice bunt, another base hit followed by a sacrifice fly.
After Lane led off the third inning with a walk, Payden Cawley Lamb hit a grounder to first base, but the first baseman's throw to second base to force out Lane passed the middle infielders. Bolinger followed by hitting his ninth home run of the season to the deepest part of the yard in left center field, giving the Bulldogs (24-9, 5-3 WCC) a 3-2 lead.
After Gonzales retired the Broncos in order in the fourth inning, the Bulldogs helped their starting pitcher by adding some more runs. Slavin got the Bulldogs started with a double to left field and Fansler's day was ended when he hit Bonczyk. After Chris Mendoza was called from the bullpen, Garrett moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt and with Lane at the plate, a passed ball allowed Slavin to slide into home safely. Lane brought home Bonczyk on the suicide squeeze. Mendoza let the inning continue when he hit Cawley Lamb. Bolinger would single up the middle and Eslick was hit by the pitch to load the bases. Halcomb would walk in a run to give the Bulldogs a 6-2 lead and end Mendoza's day. Chris Heckert came into the game and got Stanford to strike out to end the inning.
Gonzales would finish the fifth inning even though he allowed a solo home run, but the Bulldogs got the three-run lead back in their half of the inning with Garrett's solo shot to left field.
In the sixth inning, Bolinger hit a one-out single to right field and Eslick brought in the Bulldogs eighth run when he hit a double over the center fielder.
Bigelow would retire eight of the 12 batters he faced but his day would end when he walked the leadoff hitter to start the ninth. Brija came in and surrendered a single to the first batter he faced. He got the next batter to ground into a fielder's choice, but a walk loaded the bases. The freshman got out of the threat when a ground ball to the second baseman Stanford set up a double play to end the game.
The Bulldogs will look to sweep the WCC series Sunday at 1 p.m.